Almost three years after its launch in February 1996, the multispectral imager onboard NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous spacecraft imaged its eventual orbiting partner, the siliceous asteroid 433 Eros in an unintended flyby. A December 1998 orbital adjustment failed, but the craft is now trailing Eros and will catch up with it by February 2000.
Besides acquiring scientific data, the imager functions as the navigation camera. During its approach, the multispectral imager -- a 537 x 234-pixel charge-coupled device with an eight-position filter wheel -- captured more than 200 images of Eros from as close as 3830 km. It also took more than 500 pictures of a carbonaceous asteroid, 253 Mathilde, from as close as 1212 km. The eventual closest approach to Eros could be less than 15 km, resolving asteroid features as small as 3 m.